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Newsmakers

Mary Kay Henry News/Business. (2012) Mary Kay Henry, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President. New.

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Us 9, Boehner 8, Obama 2, Lindsey Graham 2, Mary Kay Henry 2, Seiu 2, Paul Ryan 2, Schumer 2, Aarp 1, Us Here 1, Mary 1, Health Care Union 1, United States 1, Labor Union 1, John Mccain 1, Pelosi 1, In Ohio 1, Washington 1, D.c. 1, Lindsey Cook 1,
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  CSPAN    Newsmakers    Mary Kay Henry  News/Business.  (2012) Mary Kay Henry,  
   Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President. New.  

    November 25, 2012
    10:00 - 10:29am EST  

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a look at the washington, d.c. charter school system. later, changes in higher education. >> this week on "newsmakers," we want to welcome mary kay henry. we have two reporters to help us with this conversation today. lindsey cook, "national journ al." >> mary, you met with the president last week on these so- called fiscal cliff. what kind of assurances did you get from the president about his willingness to put entitlement cuts on the table in his negotiations? >> the president was crystal clear on his desire to get a conversation as a top priority before any cuts could be entertained.
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what we were pleased to hear, both community and labor leaders to work together in that meeting, was how completely clear the president was on respecting the will of the electorate from the november 6 election, where he believes he offered the nation a choice, and that the popular vote and the electoral vote said, yes, it is time for the wealthy americans to pay their fair share. >> did you get a sense that if he does get what he is asking for in revenue, he would be willing to entertain concessions on entitlements as well? he did do that last year with speaker boehner in the 2011 budget talks. >> the election has changed the conversation. to refer back to last summer is to talk about yesterday's news. the national debate around the presidential election and we believed completely changed the terrain for this national conversation to happen in congress.
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>> from news reports about that meeting and general discussion right now, it seems like maybe this conversation about entitlements, medicare, social security was not really part of the conversation at the white house. is that true, and are you concerned? >> we join together in making the case in a paid ad and then doing briefs for action. as a group, we said the priorities would be to reform taxes and invest in job creation, and the cuts to medicare, medicaid and social security occurred last summer to the tune of 1.7 trillion dollars. now's the time to imagine how we grow the economy, to help feed the economic recovery, and that growth will help reduce the debt. the conversation with the president was about that bigger frame, and how we think about it.
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and then imagining the suffering that everybody is seeing all across this country, how can we restore the american middle class if we continue to cut programs that support people staying either in the middle class or not falling from it. >> do you believe some form of entitlement reform has to be part of a "grand bargain," a large down payment of paying down the debt? >> i reject the notion of entitlement. i think these are guaranteed social insurance programs of this country committed to our elders and long time ago. we just had a national debate in the country where there were two different visions, one that said, you're on your own, and another that said we are in this together. the way that we think about medicare, medicaid, and social security has to be in the context of whether we're going to create jobs of people can support their families on. in the last 20 years, the only jobs being created in this
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economy are low-wage, service sector jobs for people are having to string together two and three jobs to make ends meet are being forced to feed their children through food stamp assistance because their wages are not high enough. what really matters in this national debate is trying to figure out if we can get congress to think about the whole economy, not ideological positions of the past, but what is it that we want to do to invest in infrastructure and education that will make us a global competitor again? >> so much of the federal deficit does come from ticket demographic problem, which is that many baby boomers are going to be retiring -- the fact -- come from a demographic problem, which is that many baby boomers be retiring. >> we are maintaining the
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position of no cuts, because there's not any conversation happening in this capital area yet about revenue. as a health care union, we know that there can be improvements in the delivery of medicare. the demographic problem in this country in our minds has to be solved by creating good jobs and getting the economy growing from people spending again because i have enough money in their pockets to generate the kind of revenue that will allow for the medicare system to be solvent through the next generation. >> would you go along with passed medicare cuts of president obama has proposed in past budgets, and seek to cut the rate of growth? >> our current position is that there is no reason to entertain any question like that, because there is no indication that we're going to break on revenue.
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it is important to maintain and no cuts position to break the no tax conversation, and if we can have a real conversation about weenue, let's figure out how prioritize getting people back to work and deal with improving medicare and medicaid. >> do you see any signs of that jam on revenue starting to break? >> there were indications from republican leaders, at 6 to 7 republican leaders did not sign the tax pledge to get elected. there were key republicans a sign the pledge that are wondering if they should break. we do not know who they are. the have not surfaced yet. in many parts of the house
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republican caucus are trying to figure out how to contend with the new reality. we welcome that conversation. i have walked with a nursing home worker. 33 years. she lost 30 pounds of torque knocking for the president and ohio, and she was -- 30 pounds door-knocking for the president and ohio. -- in ohio. during this debate, i hold her in my heart and think, i have got to speak for her. and make sure that the people who feel the most vulnerable in this economy that has not yet touched every corner of the country, is they have to get addressed, their hopes and dreams and pain and suffering needs to get addressed as we reach this agreement on jobs and taxes. >> the republicans still control the house. speaker boehner says there is no
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way that he can get, nor would he support expiring those tax rates above $250,000. how firm a number do you believe that is? >> the democratic leadership have closed ranks behind the president, who i believe has drawn the brightest light i have ever seen him draw on the question of it, we have got to get the wealthiest americans to pay just a little bit more. i do not consider it their fair share. if you're sure would be returning to the clinton tax cuts. this is just a little bit more. speaker boehner needs to listen to the majority of american people, and change his political -- his political reality needs to get in sync with the reality of the majority of america.
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>> one leader who attended that meeting was quoted in the paper as saying that the president spray-painted a line in the sand. [laughter] what language did he use? >> he reiterated what we heard him say publicly on the thursday after the election, where he said -- i just had a national debate in this country. i presented a choice. i am going to follow the will of the people and that every american earning $250,000 and above it pays more. he wants congress to pass the extension of the middle-class tax cuts now so that families can enter the thanksgiving and christmas holiday with a sense of economic security. it seems to me that is one point
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of view that crosses the aisle. the republican house ought to be able to act on it. >> there are a lot of different ways of people are talking about getting to revenue. i have not heard house republicans say they would be willing to go along with higher tax rates, but they're talking about things like closing loopholes, limiting tax deductions. would those be things that you would consider seriously to get revenue that would appease both president obama's call for $1.60 trillion in revenue as well as potentially republicans? >> the loophole they are talking about, if we want to get up to $1.20 trillion, i do not know how the loopholes are the path there. it is a good indication that they are bending on the question of revenue. i think it is insufficient to
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deal with providing enough investment in the economic recovery to release speed the recovery that president obama laid down in the first term. we need to do more. >> with about speaker boehner's concept of a bridge to deal in the lame-duck session of congress, which could be a revenue package, and tax reform in the new year? >> it is a wonderful idea to have tax reform in the new year. speaker boehner keeps trying to soften what the american people said on november 6. we need to use this moment as a nation to answer the call of the american people, which they said loud and clear. >> using this moment between now and the end of the year, what does seiu plan to do to help the president? >> we have joined hands with
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other organizations, labor and community, and we started with november 8 with 44 actions around the country. we are doing business on the hill together with move on, center for community change, other parts of the labor movement. we went up on the air to do education in key states. we're bringing local leaders from all of your organizations together to lobby congress the week after thanksgiving, and then we will do another day of action on december 10, and then we will have additional actions planned the week of the 10th and 17th that will make a decision about what to do and where to do it based on what we hear from congress the following week of thanksgiving. we're putting a lot of paid resources, and we have kept our members of the job to continue to do education other family, friends and co-workers. for us, this is the second
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campaign. the president said that to us. it is a campaign to get reelected. now there is but a campaign to win on the first key part of the agenda. >> what is your biggest concern in this campaign? is it focusing more on the entitlement cuts your concern about, or is it focused more on targeting republicans who you think might come over to support the tax increases? >> it is focused primarily on making the case about why americans paying a little bit more at the top helps invest in job creation. aarp is doing a companion at on medicare, the medicare program, which we knew they would be doing. which is why we thought our special contribution was on taxes and jobs. >> the white house has indicated that based on the negotiation, they are prepared to use public support to pressure congress to
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come up with something. how closely are you all coordinating with the white house on these outreach efforts? >> very closely. we want to have the presidents back. it is amazing that he is the first president in our generation to stand for everybody paying their fair share. we think that is the right direction and leadership for the country, and so we are coordinating with how and where the best places are to do the education and mobilization. >> now this second campaign, will the president owe seiu and other organizations? >> we do not think about it like that. we think about it as more and more families are falling into poverty. far we have an obligation as a labor union to think about how
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do we do better for working people in this country. we see the president as a leader in that regard. what we think will happen is that we will accomplish the goal. if in accomplishing the goal we feel like we have done right by our members and working people -- this is not a transaction. >> to bring you back to entitlements, it was publicized last year that speaker boehner and president obama tentatively agreed to revenue of between $800,000,000,000.10 $0.20 trillion, and along with that -- $800,000 and $1.20 trillion. gets say the president what he has asked on revenue.
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>> i do not know what he will do. here is what i think my obligation is. my obligation is to represent the people in this country who have paid for the last two decades, where cuts are keeping people from being able to purchase medicare and medicaid. there ministates in this country where the medicaid -- there are many states in this country were the medicate doors are closed. that is wrong. -- medicaid jobs are closed. that is wrong. it is very important as a coalition to maintain our no- cuts position. we understand he is the president of united states. he is not the president of our coalition. he will have to make judgments that are tough that we will welcome being a part of if we can break revenue.
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we are concerned about three things. because the social security program is not because of the deficit, it should be treated differently. medicate i am the most concerned about as a leader of health-care workers -- medicaid i am the most concerned about as a leader of health-care workers. it affects elders, the disabled , and poor people in this country. and the paul ryan budget eviscerated the program. if his budget is an indicator, the biggest concern should be around medicate. >> do you think you have effectively -- medicaid. >> do you think we're going to see that -- >> speaker boehner appointed him to play a key role. i thought we had made such a case in the national election
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about how wrong the priorities were in that budget. evidently not. >> paul ryan will play a role in these so-called fiscal cliff negotiations, speaker boehner asked him sometime in the past week or so to play that role. that sent shock waves through us, because we thought, here is a leader who was basically ending medicare and medicaid as we know it. he is now going to be part of the conversation. >> it seems like with the debt ceiling, this time around with the fiscal cliff, but they're both taking a more active role than they did with the debt ceiling negotiations in 2011. there is more media rallies. what did you learn from last summer 2011 that has changed the approach? >> the grand bargain that had
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been framed is alarming to us. we thought we needed to do was both represent the interests of the people in our unions that are working people, and together with "move on" members and center for community change, to continue to echo what we believe american people said in the election. people want change. they want more fairness in the tax system in this country. we need to be able to stimulate private sector job creation by infrastructure investment and building roads, bridges, and schools. we want to make the case we have been making about the top priority being jobs in this country. >> the president's position seems to be if they cannot get republicans to go along with his demands on revenue, democrats are willing to go over the so- called fiscal cliff and let all of the tax rates expire for all americans. what kind of an effect would that have on the economy and
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working people? >> we have been doing education on the impact. we expect millions of layoff notices. we think that there will be an overreaction by employers to try to imply more political pressure -- apply more political pressure. if we cannot achieve the goal of getting more revenue on the table, we will have to walk through that crisis. the way people react is, it has been bad enough. if there is a little bit more chaos, so be it. we know how to rally as the country, just like sandy show ed. in order for us to get back to some way of fairness, we will have to weather the storm. the republicans think, if we push this into the new year, we will have a debate over the debt
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ceiling, and the leverage will be back in our court again. how do you sit? >> they have a choice right now to pass the extension of the middle-class tax cuts. they are going to cause the problem for the majority of americans by not securing economic security for the metal. i do not agree with that -- middle. i do not agree with that analysis at all. we are going to educate people. >> what about your agenda in general, going into the new year? what are the top items? minimum-wage, immigration? >> the next thing is comprehensive immigration reform. we think there needs to be a core set of economic issues that
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we're developing now, including the minimum wage that simmons and restoring the american middle-class. -- cements in restoring the american middle-class. we have got to fix the voting in this country. people are mad. we are outraged about the lines. i do not know precisely what the prescription is, but that is clearly a priority. >> what do you hear from the president -- >> when he closed the meeting, he made it clear that when we get through the tax and job discussion in congress, he wants to prioritize comprehensive immigration reform. he sees it as a key part to stabilizing the economy, investing in american middle- class, not having a subclass of
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11 million people that hurt economic revitalization. for him, it is a piece of the middle class agenda. >> are you working with senator schumer, he and lindsey graham have said they are already working on a piece of legislation. >> we are. we have issues with senator schumer's specific ideas, but we applaud his enthusiasm. we're trying to get him on the set of key elements of comprehensive immigration reform that are important to us. >> where would you disagree with him? >> a national id card, we think that does not need to be part of the solution to fixing a broken immigration system. >> to you see any republican allies going forward? >> john mccain has always been
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an incredible on this. lindsey graham has been good. we are seeing more and more interest in the house from people that i think will make themselves more known as we get into the new year. we are incredibly excited that the coming together of the latino community in this last election has awakened a bipartisan agreement that we need to act on immigration once and for all. we look forward to making it happen. >> what are the odds and we go over the cliff or get some kind of deal? >> i pray to god that we reach an agreement as a nation. the majority of americans need us to. for me, it is about can we get taxes on the table and can we get more jobs created. if that happens in december, that would be great. if it happens in january, we
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will be fine with that to. >> going over the cliff, if they strike a deal to say that those who make $1 million and more will make more -- >> that does not generate enough money. >> one of the things that has come up is the tax issue. i'm curious to know where you stand on the sequester issue. what sort of solutions are you all proposing for that? >> instead of having the sequester? >> yes. >> we want the overall agreement. taxes, jobs. on the sequester, we feel like we have done great work in states to improve and medicaid and medicare. but we love to be part of a conversation about how to do that at the federal level. >> mary kay henry president, of
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seiu. thank you for being our newsmaker. read between the lines for us here. the seiu, other labor groups had a meeting with president obama last week. can you gather what is talked about regarding the fiscal cliff? >> for what mary was saying, it really seemed like revenue was going to be a part of it. they are trying to stick from to the $250,000 threshold of the tax cuts. that is different from what happened in the 2010 lame-duck, when president obama compromised. it seems the approach is different this time. they're not going to cave on revenue. the republicans will really have
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to make some concessions on revenue in order for democrats to come to the table with any entitlement cuts at all. >> i thought she was very good at sticking to that talking point of prevent -- revenue and remaining firm. at the same time, i thought it was interesting that she never said the president assured us that ultimately he will not make these changes in entitlements. we talked about the cpi concept that was in the talks last year which cut social security benefits. know ultimately what the president will do. he does not report to us. my sense is that they're kind of the bracing themselves for something that might happen once they get the revenue. she said that she really put a priority on trying to preserve the medicaid cuts, which is something that you do
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not hear often. i feel like people are much more up in arms about preserving medicare, because it affects -- people tend to think of medicaid as something that just benefits poor people. i thought it was interesting that she said she was most concerned about that. >> she also indicated -- she along with others are saying, it is okay. we can go off the cliff. it will be all right. are you getting a sense that more and more people are starting to feel that way? >> this has been a democratic talking point for a few months now. it is a threat to republicans. the public will blame the republicans. there was a recent pew poll that bears that out. if we go over the fiscal cliff, 53% of americans will blame
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republicans. i believe that democrats think that if we go over the cliff, it will be a temporary thing. the public pressure would be so intense on the republicans that ultimately they would cave. we would be at a different budget baseline. all the tax cuts would be expired. we will no longer be at the current bush era tax cut levels. the democrats would have the leverage. >> one thing she did not necessarily acknowledge, democrats are privately concerned about the idea of going over the fiscal cliff would be bad for the economy. it would rattle the markets. it could hurt economic growth, hurt job creation. i think they're making this macho statement, but i think that privately there are quite concerned about it. nancy pelosi last week